The tenacious spirit of professional female athletes continues to inspire women across the globe and help break barriers to allow more and more women to compete in arenas, stadiums and on race tracks in events that have been historically dominated by men. In 1949, Sara Christian was the first female driver to race in NASCAR. Today, Danica Patrick has brought national attention to the sport and women’s contributions to its popularity. In 1993, Julie Krone was the first female jockey to win a triple crown race and later became the first woman inducted into national Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame. And just weeks ago at the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games, women broke into another established “boys club” sport when the games held its first-ever female ski jumping event.
As countries around the world observe International Women’s Day on March 8, 18 trailblazing female mushers will show their determination and grit as they compete in the 2014 Iditarod® dog sled race, which spans more than 1,000 miles of the Alaskan wilderness. These fearless women make up the largest group of female participants to have ever taken on this rigorous journey. The trek can last anywhere from nine to 15 days, with mushers facing extreme temperatures and unpredictable forces of nature along the way. A they set out from Anchorage to Nome, Alaska, these women will be proudly continuing the rich history of women breaking into sports that once largely excluded them.
International Women’s Day began in the early 1900s to celebrate inspirational women, the feats they’ve accomplished and their contributions to society. To commemorate this important day, the global communications firm TogoRun is honoring the courage, stamina and tenacity of these 18 mushers, including sponsoring 30-year-old Monica Zappa, a geographer and meteorologist from Kasilof, AK. Monica raised her team of dogs and trained for three years before hitting the trail for the first time this year.
Regarded as the “last great race on earth,” the Iditarod® commemorates Alaska’s rich dog sled history, particularly the emergency dog sled relay in 1925 to provide diphtheria serum to the desperately ill residents of Nome. The original mushers in that life-saving relay traveled what now makes up a portion of the Iditarod® trail. The race as it is run today began in 1973 to honor and help preserve this history. Although the initial field of racers was heavily dominated by men, it only took one year before Mary Shields made history by becoming the first woman to complete the race. To date only two women have won the Iditarod® —Libby Riddles in 1985 followed by the late Susan Butcher, who won an incredible four times (1986, 1987, 1988 and 1990).
TogoRun is named for the Siberian Husky sled dog Togo, who ran the longest leg of the diphtheria relay to Nome under the harshest conditions. Togo was one of the smallest dogs to lead a team, but he made up for it with fierce focus and fighting heart. While Togo is well-known in Alaska, many other Americans are more familiar with Balto, the dog that led the final team in the relay into Nome. “Togo didn’t get quite as much credit as he should have,” said Iditarod® veteran DeeDee Jonrowe, who is competing in this year’s race. “I think of a brave little dog.” As for Zappa, she’s excited to carry on the spirit of this unsung hero. “The Iditarod® is the ultimate test…I’m very honored to carry the Togo name,” she said.
Gloria Janata, President and Senior Partner of TogoRun, is elated to shine a light on Monica’s story as well as the participation of all the women making history this year by hitting the trail. “We’re thrilled to recognize these outstanding women mushers. The strength, determination and drive they all show truly embody the spirit of our namesake, the Siberian Husky sled dog Togo.”
International Women’s Day began at a time when women had few opportunities. But over the years as women have ascended the ranks of prime ministers, astronauts, surgeons and positions in other male-dominated fields such as sports, International Women’s Day has become a celebration of what women have and continue to accomplish – including those who are taking on the adventure of a lifetime by participating in the Iditarod®.
Today, the Iditarod® represents one of the most physically grueling and strenuous tests of women’s determination and grit. Join us in saluting this year’s field of female mushers and cheering them on to the finish line!
As the tradition continues and grows, so too does the number of female mushers hitting the trail. This YEAR’S roster includes 14 Americans as well as women from Canada and Norway, including: Anna Berington, Kristy Berington, Paige Drobny, Cindy Gallea, Ellen Halverson, Karin Hendrickson, DeeDee Jonrowe, Katherine Keith (Rookie), Lisbet Norris (Rookie), Jessie Royer, Jan Steves, Abbie West (Rookie), Monica Zappa (Rookie), Aily Zirkle, Marcelle Fressineau (Canada, Rookie), Michelle Philips (Canada), Karen Ramstead (Canada) and Yvonne Dabbak (Norway, Rookie).
To learn more about the race and its participants, including Monica Zappa, contact Andrew White at TogoRun in Washington, D.C. at 202-909-5864 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, please visit http://togorun.com/women-Iditarod® to learn about the history of women in the Iditarod®.